cold wax medium community
What is a community of artists? At one time it would have meant a physical location with a high concentration of artists who could meet and discuss their work and other art topics with frequency. Big cities like New York and Paris, and smaller places like New Hope, PA and Taos, NM have been known at various times for offering artists these opportunities for close interaction. I'm sure I'm not alone in sometimes wishing that I'd lived in such a place. As artists many of us feel an urge to seek others for feedback, conversation, support, and sharing the excitement of new work.
How lucky we are then to live at a time when other forms of community are available to artists. In my own experience, I've seen a community (both in person and online) grow among artists who work with cold wax medium. In the three and a half years that I've been teaching workshops on this topic, artists have come together around the classes themselves (with quite a few artists returning more than once, and many keeping in touch with each other when class ends) as well as on the interactive Ning site, Oil and Wax
, which now has over 1400 members from around the world. Artists who have taken my workshops now teach their own classes, and some of their students are now teaching also. People in the cold wax community are starting to know each other (or of each other) and to talk about who is doing what, teaching what, exhibiting where. Soon, I'll be launching a new website bring together artists, instructors, resources and information on this topic, which I hope will continue to nurture the growth of the cold wax medium community.
The strong urge to connect that exists among artists working with this medium has to some extent taken me by surprise. When I started the Oil and Wax Ning discussion site, it was with the simple premise of enabling those who have taken my classes to talk to each other. I could see the value in that, and the need for it, but I did not foresee the huge response from people around the country and the world who have applied for membership. Obviously the interest in cold wax medium has a life and momentum of its own...its time has come.
Considering how popular it suddenly seems, it is interesting to note that cold wax medium has been around for centuries. It was probably in use back around the first century along with encaustic (hot wax) when it was discovered that beeswax could beneficially be mixed with paint. The contemporary interest in cold wax medium seems likely to be related to the similar dramatic rise of interest in encaustic painting that has occurred over the past twenty years or so (though so far, cold wax is far less well known.) Many artists with a background in encaustic have taken my classes, evidence of a crossover interest. As one such artist told me when I commented on this, "hey, it's all wax!" Though hot wax and cold wax are related due to their use of beeswax (I think of them as sister processes) there are also significant differences (click here
for a previous blog post on this topic)--a fact that which seem to intrigue many artists.
Other artists come to cold wax medium out of frustration with traditional oil painting approaches (the wax allows much more freedom than many other techniques) or because of they would like to achieve the layering effects possible in acrylic with a new medium.
Overall, the current level of interest also seems spurred on by how well this medium works with intuitive abstract painting. Certainly cold wax medium can be used--and has been used for many years--in more traditional approaches. But what seems to ignite artist's imaginations now are techniques of layering, adding texture and mixed media. For many reasons (which become evident the more one works with it) cold wax medium lends itself extremely well to process-oriented abstraction, with its potential for rich surface textures and complex color interactions. The opportunities for experimentation are wide open. Certainly this is what has driven my own enthusiasm for the medium and has led me to develop the range of techniques that I share in my workshops.
The photo above is of the advanced level Oil and Wax Workshop that I taught in Telluride, CO earlier this month--a group of artists who for the most part have been working with cold wax medium for several years, and who all delved into their work in class with wonderful focus and enthusiasm.